Not another referendum, please
BELGİN AKALTAN - email@example.comIt’s not good for us. We, the Turkish people, do not have a good performance record in referenda. We don’t necessarily choose the correct option.
The best example of this is our existing Constitution, the one we are trying so hard to change now. A referendum was held on Nov. 7, 1982, resulting in 8.63 percent voting against with 91.37 percent voting in favor. This Constitution, the one we are currently using, went into effect on Nov. 9, 1982. Yes, 91 percent approved this Constitution and now we are trying to change it. Meaningful, isn’t it?
I have always been proud of being among that 8.63 percent - which corresponds to 1,626,431 voters. Were the remaining 91.37 percent – which corresponds to 17,215,559 voters - stupid people? Well, of course not. They were average Turkish people. Like the ones who vote in elections.
This is just an example to demonstrate how silly and manipulative referenda (the plural of referendum - yes, it sounds silly) can be.
There were reasons for those people to vote in favor in those days. They were the days of the military regime that was tuning us back to democracy. Among the reasons were fear, disinformation, sentimentality, genuine support, inability to look deeper into things, the welcoming of the military regime after years of anarchy and chaos… There was support for these reasons. The coup leader, General Kenan Evren, was liked and admired. Turkish people like Evren-like leaders. People listened to him. They regarded him as a fatherly figure. General Evren was telling people what to think, what language to speak, that there were no “Kurds” in Turkey, that they were actually “mountain Turks.” He was doing a lot of social engineering. He wanted everybody in Turkey to think like him, to believe in things he believed in. (What am I saying?)
The questions in that referendum were complicated, and so were the minds of the voters.
Voters were frightened when they went to the polling stations on Nov. 7, 1982, because the envelopes were translucent and the color of your vote could be seen. If you chose to put the blue “no” sticker inside the envelope, everybody could see that you had voted negatively. That took some courage in those days.
Many others were not properly informed. There was no adequate public discussion informing the people what the hell this Constitution meant. A second question was also asked during the referendum. In addition to the Constitution, General Kenan Evren’s presidency was also being asked for approval, as well as the introduction of a 10-year ban on former politicians.
Some people voted “yes” to Evren’s presidency even though they were against the Constitution. Some voted “yes” for the Constitution even though they were against Evren’s presidency.
Yes, Turkish society is a mature one, just like its political leaders. It makes its decisions based on advanced, sound bases and principles.
I, as a fresh graduate from a political sciences school and a new journalist of a couple of years, was not able to convince my immediate family to vote against.
Other referenda (hah, I’m getting to like this) Turkish people have held up to now start with the first one in 1961. After the May 27 coup d’état, it was held on July 9, 1961 for the 1961 Constitution. It was accepted by 61.7 percent against 38.3 percent. How meaningful.
The third referendum in Turkey was held on Sept. 6, 1987, and the question was whether or not to lift the political ban (now down to five years) on former politicians that was introduced with the 1982 Constitution. The result was a historic one, with the narrowest margin we ever experienced. Those who were in favor of lifting of the ban was 50.1 percent, those who wanted the ban to remain was 49.9 percent. Again, how meaningful.
The other three referenda (yes) - held on Sept. 25, 1988, Oct. 21, 2007, and the last one on Sept. 10, 2010 - were so absurd that let alone solve anything, nobody even remembers what they were about.
So, when people suggest a referendum or a plebiscite for Gezi Park, or for the Gezi Park trees, or for the Gezi Park resistance, I feel a cold and hot shiver going down my back.
PS: Yes, you have sensed it right. The tone has gone down here. We are holding our breath and hoping for the best.